8 Lapsed Holidays We Need to Bring Back
Holidays, whether religious or secular, are one of the few respites still allowed in this world. A well-placed holiday can bring even the most burned-out worker bee back from the brink, ready to re-enter the machine with renewed vigor. There’s a reason that they’re highlighted prominently on calendars, and it’s not just for planning purposes: It’s to provide a light at the end of the tunnel. Something we can look at and go, “Well, that'll be nice,” in the middle of the worst week of our life (so far). Unfortunately, we’ve lost many to history or changing attitudes, and it’s high time we give them a second chance.
Here are 8 ancient holidays we should toss back on the calendar…
St. Clement’ s Day
The return of St. Clement’s Day, also known as “Saint Clem’s Day,” would be a barrel of fun for everybody except emergency room workers. Luckily, it’s traditionally on November 23rd, so they get themselves a nice break from finger re-attachment after July 4th. The reason it’s such a dangerous holiday is that Saint Clement is the patron saint of blacksmiths, and his celebration involves all the blunt-force trauma and burn risks that would suggest.
The signature method of celebration? Blacksmiths would pour gunpowder into their anvils, plug them up, and set ‘em blasting. As soon as I read that sentence, I became intensely sad that I’ve never gotten to watch this, not even on YouTube. So, what’s a man to do but take to the internet and argue for its return on a comedy website?
The Gaelic festival of Lughnasadh has a lot of pretty normal fare. It would celebrate the beginning of the harvest season, and with it would come revelry, games, feasting, etc. Admittedly, those details are a dime a dozen amongst history’s special days. But not this one: Lughnasadh was also a time to enter into a very particular type of marriage, one that was basically a free trial of matrimony.
If you were a young couple, very much in love but not sure if you were cut out for the long haul, whether it be because he chewed his ancient grains too loud or whatever else, this was your opportunity. You would join hands through a hole in a wooden door (do glory holes have Gaelic roots?), and be married… sort of. The union would have a check-in a year and one day later, at which point you could scrap it if things weren't working. Given modern divorce rates, not a terrible idea.
As you might be able to tell by the grammatical carnage of that name, this is a Welsh tradition. In plain English, it meant “Feast of the Patron,” and by all accounts, it was just a straight-up good time. It had a historical connection to prayer, but predictably, people weren’t the biggest fans of that. Prayer is just like thinking, but with guilt attached, which is no fun.
What is fun is drinking a bunch of alcohol, racing wheelbarrows and gambling, which got a big thumbs up from everybody except the Church as the new best way to honor said Patron. It was full of drinking and all sorts of drunken contests. One of the premier events was cockfighting, which seems like maybe the hardest thing to link back to any sort of God’s will.
New Year’s is fun in some ways — drinking, wearing sparkly clothes, trying to fit the numerals of the coming year into a usable sunglass shape. At the same time, it comes with an immense amount of pressure. It forces you to look back on everything you accomplished — or more likely, didn’t — over the last 365 days. And so, it bears, I would argue, too much emotional weight for a single day.
The solution? Let’s steal a New Year’s Day from the Egyptians, the same way we’ve stolen their most priceless relics. Their equivalent of a New Year’s celebration was Wepet Renpet, a marker of the annual flooding on the Nile. This happened around July, which makes it perfect for cutting the year nicely in half. Not to mention, these days, it’s worth congratulating yourself for making it to the midway point of the year without having walked straight into the Nile.
St. Crispin’ s Day
Public shaming is already enjoying a massive resurgence thanks to social media. So why not lean into that, and bring back St. Crispin’s Day (particularly the way it was celebrated in Sussex, England), a holiday that let somebody around you know that they’d been a massive dickhead. The usual drinking and merrymaking occurred with one particular prop specific to the celebration: an effigy of some local or notable asshole. It was made of whoever was decided to have been the year’s most obnoxious fellow, and then, as a final fuck you, it was hung up directly in front of their house for over a week and later burned. If that doesn’t make you reconsider your social behavior, I don’t think there’s much hope.
In some ways, it could be argued that Lupercalia isn’t entirely gone, since it’s often linked (possibly erroneously) to Valentine’s Day. The fact is, though, that Valentine’s Day fucking sucks. Even if it hadn’t been entirely co-opted by money-hungry corporate piggies to weaponize emotion, it would still just be a source of relationship strife. If it’s sneaking up on the calendar of any couple, they’re simultaneously preparing for a romantic night out and/or a massive fight.
So let’s scrap it, I say. Good effort all around, we kept the greeting-card industry alive longer than anyone expected. Instead, we’re bringing back Lupercalia, a Roman festival celebrating the wolf that raised the twin founders of Rome: Romulus and Remus. Sure, there’s some weird ritual sacrifice stuff we can probably lose, but the parts where people are running around nude in a festival often referred to as “sexually charged”? Hell yeah.
First, to be clear, the Celtic festival of Beltane is still celebrated in certain places around Ireland and Scotland. To which I say, why should they have all the fun? Bring that thing over here and make it famous. You know, like we did with Cillian Murphy. It’s a celebration of the beginning of summer, and it involves big, kick-ass bonfires.
Honestly, between its sexual underpinnings, heavy drinking and the ritual of men jumping over a bonfire, it sounds like a secret graduation party. But this time, I’m not a weird teenager in an emo phase with sad poetry on my computer! Everybody, except that narc bear Smokey, loves a bonfire, and there’s just not enough holidays that decree one. Get it on the iCal, stat!
For the last holiday, we’re headed back to Egypt. You may not know what the Tekh Festival is, but given that it was also called “The Festival of Drunkenness,” you can get a pretty clear picture of what you’re getting into. In an ancient world replete with customs and rules, it’s nice that somebody finally said, “What if we just called it the Festival of Getting Absolutely Blasted With Your Boys?”
Officially and religiously, it was meant to commemorate a legendary tale in which humanity was saved by beer. The goddess Sekhmet, on Ra’s direction, was very effectively wiping out every speck of human on earth, but Ra changed his mind. Sekhmet wasn’t eager to lose her killstreak, so she refused, and instead Ra tricked her into drinking a bunch of red-dyed beer produced by the beer goddess (man, Egypt rules) and passing out. To celebrate their salvation, it was time to get absolutely sideways and pee off the top of the Sphinx.